The specialized providers are narrowly focused on the offshore services offered from one particular jurisdiction. As a rule, such providers are actually located in that jurisdiction, are licensed by the local regulatory authority as Registered Agents or International Corporate Service Providers, and, therefore, tend to be experts in everything their particular jurisdiction can offer. The specialized provider (Registered Agent) is usually the one who actually prepares the incorporation documents, goes to the Registry of Companies, submits and receives the paperwork and does all the “grunt” work related with offshore company formations. Proficient in their field, fast and cost-effective, the specialized providers are the “source” of the offshore incorporation services.
Downside? The source providers would be naturally biased towards their “own” jurisdiction. So there is actually no sense asking them to compare the benefits of other jurisdictions, as theirs` would always come out on top anyway. They may also be unable or unwilling to structure complex, multi-jurisdictional arrangements as may be necessary for some more complicated business models. But for a client who has done his research and knows exactly which jurisdiction and what sort of company and services he needs, dealing with a genuine Registered Agent is utterly the best bet.
The local, specialized offshore service providers are also not all too similar. Here, the distinctions are like in any other business.
The older, more mature Registered Agent firms would have a tendency to be slower, less flexible, conservative and more burdensome to deal with, as the institutionalization has settled in. Of course, they would be more expensive. On the upside, the “old players” would usually have a firm internal framework, experienced senior staff (in case You can reach them), and the implied assurance of being around forever.
The new players in the market would quite surely be quicker (sometimes also quick to overpromise), and generally easier to deal with. What they may lack in experience and sheer market presence, is often compensated by better customer support, flexibility and, of course, friendlier pricing.
Apart from all that, it is certainly true that all providers in one jurisdiction sell totally the same product. If not considering purely cosmetic variations between two standard packages of documents of, say, a Belize International Business Company, there is no other difference, legal or otherwise – regardless whether the package has been provided by a startup Registered Agent or a half-a-century old law firm. From this perspective, it would seem likable just to look for the lowest possible price. Largely true – but with a word of caution. Same as in all markets, there will always be an undercutter, desperate for a quick boost. Sometimes, it just does not work out. When rock-bottom fees prove unable to support decent record-keeping and database facilities, sufficient internal security and confidentiality controls and reliable staff competence, dealing with an offshore provider may turn into a nightmare – certainly not worth the initial saving of a few hundred dollars.
As so often, the best bet is somewhere in the middle, in between the rip-off for the “brand name” and the bargain basement of price wars. In any established offshore financial centre there will be a fair number of reliable and experienced Registered Agents, who take their work seriously and professionally. At Fidelity Corporate Services Ltd, we would like to think of ourselves as belonging to exactly this group.